ST. PETERSBURG — Texas Gov. Rick Perry's wife, Anita, came to Pinellas County Saturday night and got personal.
Addressing a full house at the Pinellas County Republican Club's 2011 Reagan Day dinner at the St. Petersburg Marriott, Perry said she had hesitated to urge her husband to run for president.
But she did so anyway, she said, and two days after he announced he was running, she got a text message she felt affirmed her decision. It was from Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy Seal awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism. Perry said she and her husband grew close to Luttrell, who is running for the U.S. House in Texas, and thought of him like a son.
"I have buried 87 of my brothers. That is way too many to lose," Anita Perry said Luttrell wrote in the message. "Our country needs a leader. I am with you."
The anecdote drew a standing ovation from the crowd, which earlier heard Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young sing Rick Perry's praises as an antidote to President Barack Obama's economic policies.
"If ever there was time for a change, it's 2012," said Young.
Anita Perry addressed criticism already launched at her husband, who recently described Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. The first lady of Texas said her husband's comments were taken out of context.
"It must be reformed, not (do) away with the system, but simply reformed, so all future generations have it," she said. "That is all he's saying. We need to look at it. We need to have an adult conversation."
She described her husband as a farm boy from tiny Paint Creek, Texas, the son of World War II veterans.
"I will tell you this. Rick Perry was not born with four aces in his hands," she said.
She picked up on her husband's assertion that he led Texas' dramatic record of private job creation, with 739,000 jobs added over four years.
"Rick Perry will get America to work again," she promised.
Several local Republican leaders said they were impressed with Perry's speech.
"I think she was right on target," said Gail Hebert, president of the St. Petersburg Republican Club. "She brought politics into my living room. She made it about me and my family."
Hebert said she likes Perry, but has not made up her mind about the race.